Pressler v. FTS USA LLC
ORDER granting in part and denying in part pltf's 116 Motion for Attorneys' Fees; Ryan is awarded $30,386.25 in fees and $1,560.27 in costs; Donaldson is awarded $19,687.50 in fees and $1,747.33 in costs. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 6/2/11. (vjt)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
Case No. 4:09-cv-676-DPM
FTS USA, LLC
The parties dispute attorney's fees and costs. Pressler's lawyers seek
$79,962.50 in fees ($44,987.50 to William Ryan and $34,975.00 to Tom
Donaldson) and $3,307.60 in costs ($1,560.27 to Ryan and $1,747.33 to
Donaldson). Document No. 116-2, at 3 & Document No. 116-3, at 2. FTS
challenges the number of hours billed and the attorneys' hourly rates. It does
not object to costs.
The Court"shall, in addition to any judgment awarded to [Pressler],
allow a reasonable attorney's fee to be paid by [FTS], and costs of the action."
29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Pressler recovered only $8,840.76 at trial, but the fee award
need not be proportional to his damages. Simpson v. Merchants & Planters
Bank, 441 F.3d 572, 580-81 (8th Cir. 2006). And the specifics about all the
failed settlement efforts are beside the point. The Court will resolve FTS's
objections - determining the hours reasonably expended and a reasonable
hourly rate-under the Hensley v. Eckerhart standard. 461 U.s. 424,433-440
(1983); see also Gay v. Saline County, No. 4:03-cv-564-HLJ, 2006 WL 3392443, at
*1 (E.D. Ark. 20 Oct. 2006).
Ryan seeks fees for 179.95 hours, Donaldson 139.9 hours. Aside from
its general objections, FTS challenges 55.7 of Ryan's and 61.9 of Donaldson's
hours. Ryan agrees he erroneously submitted .2 hours of time about the King
consent filing. Document No. 120, at 7.
FTS objects to paying for" duplicated ... efforts at nearly every turn" by
two attorneys whose "work [would be] ordinarily performed by a younger
attorney." Document No. 119, at 5 & 7. FTS, the Court notes, had six attorneys
of varied experience involved in this case. The Court declines to strike
Donaldson's hours in their entirety as duplicative. The Court does conclude,
however, there was some duplication of effort. Both lawyers, for example,
did not need to attend the Louden and Pressler depositions. And the case
could have been well tried by one lawyer on each side.
Taking a step back, it strikes the Court that this case could have been
handled for Pressler as well and more efficiently by one experienced lawyer
with the help of one green associate. The Court could account for this
conclusion in the hourly rates: Ryan or Donaldson's hourly rate could be cut
drastically- but that would be unfair; or the Court could calculate some
average rate for both - but that would be cumbersome and imprecise given
the record presented on hourly rates. With its discretion informed by the
Hensley factors as applied to this case, the Court concludes that the most
equitable route is to make an across-the-board reduction in hours to account
for both duplicated effort and the two-senior-Iawyers problem. It is, the
Court concludes, reasonable in the circumstances to reduce both Ryan's and
Donaldson's total time by 40.0 hours each.
Ryan's (4.2 hours) and Donaldson's (8.0 hours) time spent on the
Shockman and Conn depositions are also excluded. These depositions were
related to FTS's successful partial summary judgment. Pressler did not
prevail on that part of the case.
FTS challenges Ryan's (2.0 hours) and Donaldson's (9.6 hours) time
related to Elizabeth Downey's deposition. Pressler successfully used this two
hour phone deposition of FTS's Rule 30(b)(6) representative at summary
judgment and trial. Document No. 119, at 16. But at least some of the
deposition was related to class-certification issues. The Court therefore agrees
with Ryan and Donaldson, a 25% reduction is appropriate (striking.5 hours
from Ryan and 2.4 hours from Donaldson).
The time spent preparing the fee motion and reply is an appropriate
charge. Jones v. MacMillan Bloedel Containers, Inc., 685 F.2d 236, 239 (8th Cir.
1982). The Court will not diminish Ryan's time (5.2 hours) spent on the
thorough and helpful reply brief. Donaldson's time preparing the initial
motion (10.0 hours) seems a bit high, however; it is therefore reduced by 2.0
hours. Ryan's time spent preparing the initial motion (2.5 hours) is allowed.
FTS's challenge to Donaldson's time preparing the complaint (3.5 hours)
is rejected. A diligent lawyer could reasonably require more than thirty
minutes to research and draft a complaint. FTS's objection to Ryan's time
reviewing mediation correspondence (.5 hours) is also denied - thirty minutes
to edit and review a settlement letter is reasonable.
Ryan and Donaldson's travel time is also allowed. They charged only
for travel related to their successful claim, totaling 36 hours (20.0 hours for
Ryan and 16.0 hours for Donaldson). Fee awards cover these reasonable
hours. Craik v. Minnesota State University Bd., 738 F.2d 348, 349-50 (8th Cir.
1984). Ryan and Donaldson's time spent deposing Anthony Louden and
attending Pressler's deposition (7.8 hours per lawyer) is duplicative but
allowed. Louden's deposition was a component of Pressler's success. And
the duplicated effort here has already been adjusted out.
Donaldon's time for reviewing discovery with Pressler (2.5 hours per lawyer),
is also allowed.
After reductions, Ryan has 135.05 hours; Donaldson 87.5 hours.
II. Hourly Rate
FTS challenges Ryan and Donaldson's $250.00 hourly rate as
unreasonable. In support of their hourly rate, Ryan and Donaldson submit
an affidavit and a declaration from two experienced central Arkansas
employment lawyers. These lawyers' rates exceed Ryan's and Donaldon's
rates. For its challenge, FTS points to a September 2010 fee order in another
case to undermine one of the declarations. But Ryan and Donaldson attach
to the reply an affidavit from the lawyer involved that clarifies the matter.
The requested hourly rate is, the Court concludes, too high. Here the
Court draws on its experience at the bar and in handling fee issues during the
last five years, as well as what is reasonable in this case. FLSA work is
specialized. But again, this was a hard fought but legally simple dispute.
Ryan and Donaldson are to be commended for taking on Pressler's case and
advocating it to a successful conclusion. A reasonable hourly rate for their
work, all material things considered, is $225.00. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437;
Simpson, 441 F.3d 572, 580-81. Though still a bit on the high side, this rate is
reasonable here given the Court's forty-hour reductions in the time allowed
each of Pressler's lawyers.
* * *
Pressler's motion for attorneys' fees, Document No. 116, is granted in
part and denied in part. Ryan is awarded $30,386.25 in fees and $1,560.27 in
costs. Donaldson is awarded $19,687.50 in fees and $1,747.33 in costs.
D.P. Marshall Jr.
United States District Judge
2 June 2011
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